French Tendencies in the Early Twenties
IslIA V E received from the Editor a copy of Thr! :Itdocar for October 15th, 1921, accompanied only hy a cryptic note about curing the influenza. As I am not suffering from the influenza just at present this doesn’t seem to get us any plaee much, but I conclude that I am expected to produce a story. • It really is rather an MI rk’si itl!r number of The Aulocar, because it deals with the 1921 Paris Sahli). The reporter comments, witb great truth, that ” French
designers cherish an innate It for a mechanical masterpiece, and not infrequently theN,have allowed this love to over-rule commercial difficulties. ‘”Phis was elearly apparent at the 1921 Salon, at the very moment. when the post-war slump was beginning to assume its most menacing expression. Manufacturers were, indeed, pandering to the slump to the extent of producing cycle-cars of horrifying frailty, and there Were some sound, cheap light ears among which the Citrnen was (intstanding ; but among the great houses were many superlative cars in which inconvenience and expense of manufacture had received no concessions whatever. External engine neatness is highly prized in a way that was seldom found in English products except the Sunbeam, which was certainly
a model in this respect. .
Among these super-cars the HispanoSuiza, Delage and Farman were Outstanding, while Fiat and Voisin had twelve-cylinder models. Straight. eights were represented by Panhard and Bugatti, the former being a sleeve valve, doubtless the -forerunner ()I’ Eyston’s famous razorblade of the later twenties.
The Bugatti was, however, the lion of the Show, and an entirely remarkable effort it certainly was, at I rail ing so much attention that it was practically impossible to get near the thing. So far as I know, no type number was ever publicly attributed to it, but it was
presumably somewhere between 23 and 30. %Vhether an example was ever delivered to the public even seems open to doubt.. The more sceptical, like John Bolster, who squints horribly and froths out of the corners of his mouth when in proximity to a Br ssa t ti, may even question Whether there were any works inside the engine.
Be that as it may, this model was a remarkable premonition of the smallea pacity multi-cylinder engine which reccived its first, real impetus from the 1023 2-litre Type 30 Bugatti. Compared with the rather experimental nature of tl a ‘l’s a’ 30, the 1921 show model suggests a maturity of design which was not again found in touring Bugatlis until the 5-litre, Type 46, introduced in 1929. The engine dimensions are 69 by 100, like the Type 44, giving a capacity of 2,991 e.e. It had the usual square, monobloc appearance, but was, in fact, two blocks, like the Type 49, with the camshaft drive between them—a very sound arrangement which it seems remarkable By Cecil Glutton
that le Patron did not adopt more frequently.
A cross-shaft at the base of the camshaft drive worked the water pump on the near exhaust side, and the magneto on the off side. The magneto was decently concealed from the vulgar gaze in a neat aluminium box.
The head was flat, having three valves per cylinder and this was the first public appearance of the traditional Bugatti ” square ” hloek and cambox arrangement, usually attributed to the 1924 G.P. ears.
The big ends and ten main bearings were all plain metal, and had the advantage of pressure lubrication throughout. Having regard to this it seems remarkable that it was nearly eight, years before plain bearing Br us; it tis oYa ill had pressure lubrication, relying, instead, upon the very temperamental spit-and-hope method. The pistons ‘vere aluminium.
Once more anticipating the Types 46 and 49, the off side of the engine is graced by the 16 sparking plugs wh iehi (as appeared from a recent public utterance) so displease Mr. Bolster. Now, it strikes me that 16 sparking iilugs are no funnier than the four carburetters with which Mr. Bolster has festooned his Delage tourer, and not half as funny as the four engines with which he has endowed his racer. In fact, it is my belief that Mr. Bolster is jealous of Mr. Bugatti’s 16 sparking pings and 24 valves.
This typeless I3ugatti had two carburetters of special Bugatti design, expressly arranged, it. seems, SO as to preclude entirely the changing of the sparking plugs on cylinders 3, 4, 6 and 7. The engine was said to develop 90 at 3,400 r.p.m. Nvhich, if more than U )iO(is flops was a very gilt III performanee, beingequivalent to 118 Isin.e.p. at a piston speed of 2,250 [pi”
The chassis followed usual Bugatti lines, though the tubular front aNle had not yet arrived. Front brakes, cableoperated, were fitted, but tliese were intended to he replaced by hydraulics-a system which Mr. Itugatti was then contemplating, butt which lie dropped after he had had a horrifying olen-accident while rushing down a mountain. He was not to resume hydranlies for another 17 years, until the very latest Types 57 and 57C.
The front springs were semi-elliptic, but each spring was composed of two separate sets of leaves, side by side, and each very narrow. This arrangement also appears in ” Black Bess,” and Mr. Bugatti naively commented that it was ” very original “–but vouchsafed no further explanation.
Again looking forward to the Type 46, the gearbox liNsed on the back axle, but in this instance it contained only two gears (like the Baby Peugeot ) which were considered adequate for such a light chassis and powerful engine.
Yet another unusual pioneer feature was an adjustable steering NO wt.! , the adjustment being effected by the simple Inearlti of arranging the wheel so that it ecitild be slid up and down the column, and fixed at any point by tig,htening a key. However tentative this model may have been, at, least its outward sernhlanee existed, and its specification shows how clearly Mr. Bugatti had envisaged the high-speed touring car of the future, at this Very early date. What does seem queer is that we had to wait seven Or eight years before arty Other plain-bearing Bugatti of such mature design was put into regular production.
Going back to the rest of the Show, perhaps its outstanding feature was the great act V a nee of four-wheel brakes. Some 40 firms had adopted them at a date when, I believe, the Argyll was the only English car so fitted, and most manufacturers regarded them as lit the short of heretical. The fact was that the l’rencli had seen f.w.b. in successful operation in racing, and they were not slow to appreciate their value in ordinary motoring. In addition to these highpriced models the famous makers were also meeting the financial slump by offering small, high-quality models, and in view of the then exorbitant price of petrol, considerable emphasis was laid on fuel economy. Smile of’ these had sleeve valves, of which the smallest was the 4cylinder, 60 by .105, 1.200-e.e. l’anhard, and there was a Voisin only a little larger. In so small an engine the ‘frictional losses from double cast-iron sleeve valves must have been quite horrifying. Suspension systems were fantastically varied and complex, among the more remarkable being the Gobron, of which The Asa-ocar reporter remarked that it had ” a very peculiar type of rear spring : only the met in leaf is a true cantilever. Inc
rest of tile being quarter-elliptic, and added to Ibis is another quarter-elliptic, shackled up to tlie end of the frame, the use of which is very obscure.
Apart from the Salon, the same issue deals with entries for the forthooming 2110-Alile Race, and it is a lair measure of the interest which this event aroused that one finds the Morris-Cowley ccincern covering a full-page advertisement with laboured excuses for their non-participation in the race. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Another famous motorist has been flagged-in Capt. Sir Lionel Phillips, Bart. He owned a Leyland Eight, and with it achieved the very flute average of 97.85 1)1.1).11. in the 1937 M.C.C. One Hour High
Speed Trial. .